Relative permeability curves generally exhibit hysteresis between different saturation cycles. This hysteresis is mainly caused by wettability changes and fluid trapping. Different rock types may experience different hysteresis trends because of variations in pore geometry. Relative permeability curves may also be a function of the saturation height in the reservoir.

A detailed laboratory study was performed to investigate relative permeability behavior for a major carbonate hydrocarbon reservoir in the Middle East. Representative core samples covering five reservoir rock types (RRTs) were identified on the basis of whole core and plug X-ray computed tomography (CT), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) T2, mercury injection capillary pressure (MICP), porosity, permeability, and thin-section analyses. Primary-drainage (PD) and imbibition water/oil relative permeability (bounding) curves were measured on all the five rock types by the steady-state (SS) technique by use of live fluids at full reservoir conditions with in-situ saturation monitoring (ISSM). Imbibition relative permeability experiments were also conducted on the main RRT samples to assess the relative permeability (scanning) curves in the transition zone (TZ) by varying connate-water saturations.

Hysteresis effects were observed between PD and imbibition cycles, and appeared to be influenced by the sample rock type involved (i.e., wettability and pore geometry). Variations in relative permeability within similar and different rock types were described and understood from local heterogeneities present in each individual sample. This was possible from dual-energy (DE) CT scanning and high-resolution imaging. Different imbibition trends from both oil and water phases were detected from the scanning curves that were explained by different pore-level fluid-flow scenarios. Relative permeability scanning curves to both oil and water phases increased with higher connate-water saturation. Relative permeability to oil was explained on the basis of the occupancy of the oil phase at varying connate-water saturations. The change in the water relative permeability trend was addressed on the basis of the connectivity of water at the varying connate-water saturations. These results and interpretations introduced an improved understanding of the hysteresis phenomena and fluid-flow behavior in the TZ of a Cretaceous carbonate reservoir that can assist in the overall reservoir modeling and well planning.

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